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Double joy for Maher

December 21, 2012 22:52 pm

Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher warmed up for Saturday's Rolex FEI World Cup qualifier with a blistering performance at the London International Horse Show.

Maher, part of Great Britain's London 2012 title-winning team, won two classes in the space of three hours.

He captured the Kingsland Christmas Tree Stakes speed class with Milena, then followed up by landing the Christmas Masters and £11,500 aboard his Olympics horse and World Cup ride Tripple X III.

Hertfordshire-based Maher has already won four classes at the show this week with two days to go, and he is a runaway leader of the race to be crowned top rider on Sunday night.

Maher and Milena clocked 48.56 seconds, winning the Christmas Tree Stakes by a comfortable margin from Germany's Marcus Ehning and Campbel, who recorded a time of 49.99.

Consistent Irishman Cian O'Connor finished third with Ishd Dual Star, with John Whitaker (Argento) fourth and Peter Charles - one of Maher's Great Britain gold medal-winning colleagues - fifth aboard Murka's Nevada.

Maher then returned to the arena to win a thrilling jump-off in the Christmas Masters.

Frenchman Roger Yves Bost posted a stunning clear round with Castle Forbes Vivaldo in just 22.50 seconds, but last-to-go Maher delivered a masterclass on Tripple X, clocking 22.30.

Such is his current form, that it would be no surprise if Maher wins the World Cup event on Saturday for a second successive year, although the 35-rider competition features numerous fellow global stars.

Olympic bronze medallist O'Connor, meanwhile, won his second major class of the week on 13-year-old Splendor, following up Wednesday night's Christmas Pudding Stakes victory by taking the Santa Stakes in impressive fashion.

They were more than a second clear of runner-up Penelope Leprevost after seven horses from a 27-strong field made the jump-off.

French challenger Leprevost and Nice Stephanie edged Portugal's Luciana Diniz (Fit for Fun) into third, with leading British contender Michael Whitaker (fourth) and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton (Heracross) fifth.

Cheshire teenager Emily Ward produced a stunning performance to win the Team Murka and World Class Programme Under-23 British Championship.

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